Great St. Martin Church

Cologne, Germany

The Great Saint Martin Church (Groß Sankt Martin) foundations (circa 960 AD) rest on remnants of a Roman chapel, built on what was then an island in the Rhine. The church was later transformed into a Benedictine monastery.

In 1150, a fire destroyed much of Cologne and it is supposed that the entire church was destroyed. The Archbishop of Cologne Philipp I. von Heinsberg sanctified the new building in 1172, and the first phase of construction, the tri-apsidal structure was built, with three round apses meeting in the shape of a cross. This is the only element of the church still present today. The eastern end of the nave was completed before a further fire in 1185, as well as aisles on the Southside. At the northern apse, two Benedictine chapels were later added, built over the ruins of the previous abbey buildings.

In the middle of the 13th century, new walls for the three apses were completed, with larger windows. These provided a sought-after lightness to the interior. The nave was also made five meters longer, and the atrium in the west was built.

After the completion of the church in the 13th century, few modifications to the form of the church were undertaken. Most significant during this period were the various renovations needed for the four surrounding towers.

Reforms under abbots Jakob von Wachendorp (1439–1454) and Adam Meyer (1454–1499) provided a stronger financial footing for the Benedictine abbey. From this the inner decoration of the church was embellished, including figures from the altar, installed in 1509, that are still present today.

In 1707, the decaying interior walls were repaired and refurbished. Heinrich Obladen, then the abbot of Great Saint Martin, also purchased a new, larger organ for the church. New adornments for the Church took on a Baroque style, including golden bands for the pillars, dome and walls.

 The church was badly damaged in World War II; restoration work was completed in 1985.

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Address

Fischmarkt 5, Cologne, Germany
See all sites in Cologne

Details

Founded: c. 1172
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jana Oliveira (17 months ago)
Beautiful architecture in a place surrounded by beauty in Cologne.
Hassan Al Zakout (18 months ago)
Great church. Very nice design.
KS Han (20 months ago)
Locked and really not much to see. It might be better to visit Cologne Cathedral once again(day and night).
chans chachacan (2 years ago)
Beautiful monastery, quiet, calm, between the chaos of the city, 50 cents of euro to see the Roman excavations under the church.
Mustafa Özer (2 years ago)
With its distinctive crossing tower and trefoil choir, Groß St. Martin has shaped the skyline of Cologne’s historic Old Town since the Middle Ages. In Roman times, the site was located on an island in the Rhine and contained several warehouses. The church was built on top of these warehouses and incorporated their remains. The dimensions of the church were based on those of the southeastern part of the ancient storage complex. After Groß St. Martin was severely damaged in World War II, impressive archaeological excavations were made underneath the choir. As a result, the smooth transition from the foundations of a Roman warehouse to the walls of the church aisles can still be clearly seen. The upper parts of the church were reconstructed after World War II and are a typical example of Rhenish architecture from between 1150 and 1250. Today the interior of this former Benedictine church is characterized, on the one hand, by its imposing architecture and, on the other, by its minimalist furnishings. Join us on a tour of Great St. Martin and visit the excavations. Another popular city walk will take you to the Praetorium and also to the Great St. Martin and other monuments.
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Hagios Demetrios

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The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.